LAN Engineering File Storage

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Thread Starter

Mooney, Jim

Hello Group,

Our company is currently undergoing a file storage "crisis" and I'm looking for some help. I'm looking for recommendations for a LAN file storage / management software system for our day-to-day design operations. We have several NT servers that are dedicated to groups of 10 - 20 engineers and are interconnected via a company-wide network. What we would like to do is set
up a "local" storage system on each of these servers to handle the daily work in process. The main features of this local file system would be:

- Windows NT compatible
- ability to store all types of Windows-type files
- ability to organize files by project and sub-projects
- support long filenames (>8 chars.)
- provide security (i.e. set authorization levels for various functions such as view, copy, edit, move, delete)
- simple to learn and use
- provide filename and, if possible, file content search capabilities

We currently employ about 150 controls engineers and have dozens of projects going on at any one time. Last year, we invested in a document database system (PDM) by Metaphase that was intended to manage storage, structure, revision control for all of our CAD drawings, PLC logic files, and other misc. files (Word, Excel, etc.) that are generated in the course of a design
project. Due to both the large number of file transactions taking place and all the database management activity that accompanies each transaction, the Metaphase system has proved to be unsuitable for the day-to-day work in
process. We are now looking to utilize it as a "central" storage system (for documents that have been "released" to the outside world), and to
interface to other company systems (ERP, etc). The "local" storage systems will connect to the Metaphase system.

No doubt there are many design companies that have similar requirements, so I'm hoping for suggestions about systems already in use. Pardon my wordiness, hopefully I've made clear the intention. As you can probably tell I'm not a network jock, but a user who volunteered to help investigate.

Thanks in advance for your assistance.

Jim Mooney
Controls Design Supervisor
Comaupico N.A.
[email protected]
 
P

Paul S. Peterson

Jim,

Contact your local EMC Sales rep. They have exactly what you are looking for. EMC and Clarrion are the leaders in Network-centric storage equipment. Becuase this stuff is mission-critical, it is important to go with the best.

Paul S. Peterson
POWER Engineers, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
[email protected]
 
D
Two software products to consider: AutoManager Workflow and Meridian, both produced by Cyco. Both products have a "vault" of approved documents and a "sandbox" of documents under revision that require engineering approval.

We have long used AutoManager WorkFlow. It was originally used exclusively by the product design department to manage the drawing revision process. Since January 1998, WorkFlow has also served as a document viewer and print manager
for our production, sales, and manufacturing departments. When set up properly, it will do everything that you include on your list.

The limitations of Workflow are 1) it was really designed to work only on one LAN; 2) it requires customization of some on-screen forms to handle your security; and 3) out of the box it may not prints a document if the application isn't loaded on the local PC. Our problem is primarily with item 1. We are now running across a WAN, sharing files at 4 (soon 5 or more) facilities, and
performance is less than stellar across the WAN. We haven't had a problem with item 2 or item 3, but we have a good consultant/programmer that our management staff is willing to pay for good efficiency.

We are now testing Cyco's Meridian to replace WorkFlow. Meridian is a new product. It is in a restricted release phase right now. Full release is scheduled for later this summer. From what I've seen so far, Meridian seems to do just about everything that you list with far less customization than WorkFlow.

By the way, regarding item 3, we had an engineer here a few years ago that spent many, many hours searching for a document manager/viewer that would handle printing. He never found one that was made to print any file type using the
native application. The trick to a good document system (for us, anyway) is to allow viewers in sales, manufacturing, and production to print AutoCad files, even when they don't have AutoCad loaded on their PC's. Our solution has been to load AutoCad on one print server, from which the database software calls another program (Zap-Server) to print any file for anyone with view/print rights.

If you want more information, let me know and I'll pass on some contact names.

Regards,
David Leese
 
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Michael Griffin

At 17:16 04/05/00 -0400, Mooney, Jim wrote:
<clip>
>I'm looking for recommendations for a LAN file storage /
>management software system for our day-to-day design operations.
<clip>
We have also been looking around. Most of what seems to be out there is either too narrowly focused (CAD drawings only), or intended as extremely large scale systems. There isn't a lot in between.

>- ability to store all types of Windows-type files
>- ability to organize files by project and sub-projects
>- support long filenames (>8 chars.)
>- provide security (i.e. set authorization levels for various functions such
>as view, copy, edit, move, delete)
>- simple to learn and use
>- provide filename and, if possible, file content search capabilities
>
<clip>
One item you mentioned is the tough one - "simple to learn and use". We seriously investigated Motiva (now owned by Autodesk). It looked very good at first, but we gradually came to realise just how overwhelming it could be. The implementation would turn into such a huge project and require such careful planning that we reconsidered what we needed. Most of the other
systems we found were even larger and more complicated and require implementation by a team of specialist consultants, and are on a similar
scale to ERP/MRP systems.

There doesn't seem to be much around which is oriented towards the needs of an engineering group. The problem seems to be that the smaller systems are made by CAD software companies who are only interested in managing CAD files, rather than an entire project. There are few which specialise in PLC program management, but again, they won't handle an entire project, even a fairly small one.
We started looking around for something simpler. There is a product called PDM-Works which is currently only available as an add-in to the Solid-Works CAD program. However, they are working on a stand alone package which is supposed to be more generalised (not tied to Solid-Works) and which sounds promising. The guiding principle for this software is supposed to be simplicity. It also seems to be relatively inexpensive. We are waiting for the new version to come out so we can evaluate it. We expect to see it within a couple of months.
Work flow is not integrated into it, but third party products to manage this can be added on. I feel this is actually better. It means you
are not tied into the work flow system of the document management package, but rather can use something which may operate better with the other systems in your company.

>Last year, we invested in a document database
>system (PDM) by Metaphase that was intended to manage storage, structure,
>revision control for all of our CAD drawings, PLC logic files, and other
>misc. files (Word, Excel, etc.) that are generated in the course of a design
>project. Due to both the large number of file transactions taking place and
>all the database management activity that accompanies each transaction, the
>Metaphase system has proved to be unsuitable for the day-to-day work in
>process.
<clip>
I can imagine what happened. Everyone was hoping this new system would turn chaos into order, only to find out that it was so cumbersome and time consuming to use that they didn't want to use it. This is an area which is very poorly served by existing software.
I would be very interested in staying in touch with you and sharing information on this issue. If anyone else has any suggestions I would be also interested in hearing from them, as we haven't made any commitment yet.
I would also be interested in hearing more about what the shortcomings of your Metaphase system are. I would like to have a better idea of problems to avoid. You could reply off list on this point if you would rather do so.

As a final note, here is a problem I have been struggling with. Suppose you want to file away a new version of a PLC program which someone
gave you on a floppy disk (or e-mailed to you). However, the program is composed of multiple files. How do you know if you have all of it? If you depend upon manual inspection you are bound to make mistakes and miss one or more critical files (I have seen this happen). I haven't seen *any* general PDM system which handles this problem off the shelf.



**********************
Michael Griffin
London, Ont. Canada
m[email protected]
**********************
 
K

Kirk S. Hegwood

For a simple solution, try Quantum's Snap Server. Its worked well with my network, although we're small than you, and its inexpensive for lots of data storage. $800-900 for 20Gigs.


Kirk S. Hegwood
President
Signing for Hegwood Electric Service, Inc.
 
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Has anyone investigated the "Tempest Storage Management Server" from Hummingbird (was Diamond Head Software until February 2000)?

http://www.dhs.com/Products/TEMPEST.htm

"Lurker John" G. Boland, president
VisiBit Corporation
One Parker Square Suite 408
2525 Kell Boulevard
Wichita Falls, Texas 76308
940.322.9922
940.723.1478 fax
 
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